'Hare Krishna' chant to turn jails into temples?

Keralanext.com/February 23, 2004

Kolkata, The global 'Hare Krishna' sect, headquartered in West Bengal's Mayapur town, is planning a reformation drive in the state's jails.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) wants to conduct regular religious sessions in jails in the hope that they would awaken the spiritual persona in every convict and make him or her a better human being.

The proposal, already submitted to the state government, recommends that ISKCON volunteers introduce convicts to meditation and religious discourse.

ISKCON monks want to distribute Hindu religious texts such as the Bhagwad Gita and hold its readings regularly. They also want convicts to chant 'Hare Krishna'.

The jail authorities are yet to react to the offer, taking their time apparently to assess the security aspect of such a move.

NGO activities with convicts have been severely curtailed by authorities after a couple of jailbreaks last year.

ISKCON was allowed to distribute the Bhagwad Gita and some food to inmates in two Kolkata jails last month. The response got its members thinking about a reformation programme for convicts.

ISKCON General Manager Gouranga Das sent the proposal to Inspector General (prisons) Joydeb Chakraborty on Feb 4.

ISKCON has a separate cell that deals with reformation of convicts. "We are not coercing convicts to participate in religious sessions," said volunteer Mahua Das.

The ISKCON philosophy says a convict is not to be blamed for his crime. It is society that is responsible because it could not impart the right lessons to the sinner.

ISKCON monks have already carried out such reformation drives in jails in Agra and New Delhi.

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